Opinion

A Game of Thrones Lesson for the Age of Netanyahu and Putin

This image released by HBO shows Vladimir Furdik as The Night King on the season finale of 'Game of Thrones.'
HBO via AP

The third episode of the last season of “Game of Thrones” is incredible – one of the most visually impressive and epic episodes ever seen on television. It distills the substance through which the series expresses the spirit of the age.

This is the episode of the battle of Armageddon between humanity and the Night King and his army of the dead. It opens with the primed, tense waiting of humans looking far off into the dark night and trying to locate the approaching enemy in the gloom.

A few long minutes pass in silence that is occasionally disturbed by the neighing of a horse. This silence produces great dramatic moments and demonstrates a central theme of the show: It is built on growing fear, which has slowly accumulated through eight seasons in preparation for this climax, of waiting for death to attack out of the total darkness – the fear of the winter that is coming.

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It seems that this fear reflects a true unease in our present day. In the first seasons of “Game of Thrones,” the interpretation that identified the connection to the real world focused on the violence of beheadings in the style of the Islamic State – but this was a superficial similarity. “Game of Thrones,” a contemporary show made for our era, is at a much deeper level.

The series was ahead of its time and heralded the fear and distress that many throughout the Western world now feel from the anti-democratic forces of darkness, which are sowing real panic in our hearts. Indeed, winter is coming.

The show presents a cyclical theory of history: The periodic arrival of winter and the periodic coming of the Night King. Actual history is also cyclical and it is becoming more and more clear that winter is here, and it will only get worse. In the real world, like in the show, the doomsayers are called pessimists even though the reality proves time after time that they are really the clear-eyed ones.

During the war, while sitting helplessly in the dungeon, Sansa Stark said the most heroic thing she could do was to recognize reality and face the truth. This is what the opponents to Trump, Putin, Orban, Erdogan, the European far-right and Netanyahu must do. Stop the denial. History is cyclical, and the winter has arrived.

The stars of the show are literally fighting death itself. But what is this death? It is a force that takes away a person’s humanity, their personal willpower. Outside the “Game of Thrones,” in the real world, we recognize this death. And it is here. Winter has come to Israel.

“Game of Thrones” is a political show. Beyond the fantasy, action and adventure it has a clear political statement. There is no confusion about who is good and who is evil. There is no doubt about its moral verdict.

Sometimes there is no choice but to fight the Night King to the death, but it is impossible to do this if you don’t admit that he is here. It gives pause that the forces of darkness in the real world have intensified in parallel with the onset of winter in the show. Trump took office, Netanyahu’s soul has blackened. The war in “Game of Thrones” has ended, but for us it has just begun.